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It’s Take-Your-iPad-to-School Year

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Midway High, Cherokee trying out new program

By Damon Lawrence

Students at Midway High School and Cherokee Middle School will be allowed to use iPads, iPhones and iPods during the school day this year.
The go-ahead is part of a trial program on personal communication and personal electronic devices being tested at the two schools.
“I think it’s going to go real well,” Roane County Director of Schools Gary Aytes said. “I think the high school students will really take a leadership role and make it work. Middle school, it might take a little more guidance because you’re dealing with 11- and 12-year-olds, but I think it will work with them, too.
“We’re looking forward to some good things.”
The trial program is for the 2013-14 school year, which starts today – Monday.
“I think it’s going to work out fantastic,” Midway senior Aaron Woody said. “It’s going to offer students a new way to learn.”
Personal communication and personal electronic devices include cellphones, MP3 players,
iPads, iPods, netbooks, laptops and notebook computers.
Students at Midway High and Cherokee will be allowed to use the devices before and after school, during lunchtime and when changing class.
“It’s basically about trying to teach the kids to use the technology in a responsible manner,” Midway Principal Scott Mason said.
The devices can also be used during classroom time with permission.
“If the teacher’s doing research, then they could use that,” Aytes said. “If the teacher’s doing a quiz on the board, then you can use your iPhone for a clicker to answer the questions. Those kind of things.”
The Roane County Board of Education approved the trial program for Midway High and Cherokee on second reading at its July meeting.
The policy states that the waiver permitting the use of the devices at the two schools can be revoked at any time by Aytes or the school board.
“If we see a real increase in problems, we’ll just cut it off and go back to the old policy,” Aytes said.
“The principals will be reporting on its success or failure,” Board Member Wade McCullough said.
“The main emphasis of this policy from our principals has been to teach responsibility in the use of phones and electronic communication devices among our students. It’s up to them to use them responsibility.”
Mason said the program could be jeopardized if students are tardy to class.
“The policy will go back to the way it was if we see an increase in that,” he said.  
Woody said he doesn’t think that will happen.
“You know that you have a certain amount of time to get it done,” he said. “You send your text, check your Twitter and you move on and get to class.”
Aytes said Midway High and Cherokee volunteered to test the program.
“They stepped forward and said we want to do this,” he said. “Actually, Midway’s was kind of student led. They kind of led the charge, and that’s the reason I think it will work really well there because they’ve taken ownership.”
Both votes on the trial program passed the school board unanimously.
“I think this is a good step forward,” Chairman Rob Jago said. “We need to make this work. I know everywhere we look technology is getting ahead of us.”
School officials said if the program proves successful at Midway High and Cherokee, they will consider expanding it to other Roane County schools in the future.
“This will be the trial,” Aytes said.
 “If these two schools can do it, we’re going to assume the others can do it.”